The Belmondo Diary latest edition by guest writer Matt.
FRIDAY April 1st, 2016
Game day. Vitesse started with basically six defenders. It was obvious they were only interested in walking away with a draw. Safe in second place, there’s no point risking anything by actually trying to win. Idiots.
I told the guys to go out aggressively to try to put them off-balance early. It worked. Vitesse wasn’t threatening at all. That may have been due to their six defenders though. We had a few pushes into the box and then Appiah scored a scrappy goal after a corner. Hallelujah! I yelled out to sit back. No need for Vitesse to get any funny ideas about scoring. Both fullbacks were carded before we headed in to the break, but we were still ahead 1-0.
Then he did it again. Early in the second half, Appiah smashed one home off the keeper and I ascended to a higher plane of existence. “He only scores in pairs!” chanted the crowd.
I subbed the two fullbacks, just in case. We marched on. They couldn’t get a shot off. I was beside myself. Seventy minutes had gone by and we were still ahead by two goals. I brought Roman on for some match fitness because I was feeling cocky. I kept giving looks to the Vitesse manager, Peter Bosz. He somehow avoided eye-contact.
In the 86th minute they were awarded a penalty. The world slowed. They scored it and then came the most nervous seven minutes of my life. And I survived it. Obviously – I’m writing this entry. We just beat Vitesse. Again. We’re two points behind them with five games to go.
You should know I fought very hard against the idea of writing an April Fools entry today, dear diary.
SATURDAY April 2nd, 2016
FC Twente LOST!
Peter Bosz, the Vitesse manager, has described me as “impossible to deal with”. He got that right!
Ajax play Zwolle tomorrow. They’re both on 45 points. We’ve got 50. Is it too much to hope for a draw?
SUNDAY April 3rd, 2016
Ajax won 3-0. Seriously, if they finish above us, I will cry.
Next up is Utrecht a week from today. It will be good to play after the other teams. Then we’ll know what we need to do.
SATURDAY April 9th, 2016
Zwolle won yesterday.
Utrecht lost 5-0 in their last game, so is that good or bad for us? We’ll find out tomorrow, I suppose.
Ajax just won their game with three goals again and have jumped me (us) in the standings. But Vitesse drew! We’re three points off them now. And we play in less than 24 hours. If we win by 12 goals tomorrow, we’ll be in second place!
With today’s results, PSV has mathematically sealed the league. I guess Cocu’s study of my methods really paid off. I’m happy for him. PSV still have to play Vitesse, Cambuur, and Zwolle which makes me worry. They’d better not send out B teams. All three of those teams can finish above us.
SUNDAY April 10th, 2016
Game day. Man, did we have some chances in the first half. None of them were taken, of course. But things were looking very pretty at times. Utrecht managed a single shot on goal. They were playing five across the back. Some managers seem to have the impression that we’re an attacking force to be reckoned with. I’m seeing so much bus parking, it feels like I’m back in middle school.
They had a second chance early in the second half. It went in, of course. Now I needed two goals. Luckily Appiah was on hand to send one in off a great cross from Santos in the 62nd minute. The crowd started their chant. I really needed his pattern to continue. Two goals. Two goals.
Four minutes later, that centre back I signed because I couldn’t find a striker scored his first goal. He absolutely smashed it in after a broken down free kick routine. In the 72nd, Appiah had a shot go off the woodwork. Our fans nearly collectively wet their pants. Then, back came Tyias Browning with his second goal. Second goal of the game, second of the season. Give this man a cigar!
I brought Roman on for more match fitness because I was cocky. And they scored, naturally. If you call a offside goal scoring, that is. I don’t, but the referee was all about it, so we had five minutes to get through with a one-goal lead. We did it. We’re back in third. Equal second, really. Equal second with a team we beat twice.
There are four games to go and there are two points between 2nd and 5th. Game on.
Cocu? He was there.
SATURDAY April 16th, 2016
Vitesse and Twente both dropped two points. It is on like the proverbial donkey kong. Tomorrow we play Cambuur who are in eighth desperately trying to get that European playoff. Ajax plays Utrecht in the early game.
SUNDAY April 17th, 2016
Ajax beat Utrecht.
Game day. Joey Sleegers twisted his ankle in the first minute and had to be subbed off. The first minute! I switched Santos to the left and brought Lundholm on. He’d been complaining about match time recently. So, here was 89 minutes for him. Then van Eijden went down with only a few minutes left in the half. Two down. Zero goals. Zero shots on target. We did have 55% of the ball, so I had hope for the second half.
That hope vanished when Cambuur’s player, Narsingh, waltzed into the box and scored in the 72nd minute. We’d had ten shots up to that point. One of them was on target. I took Bilal off and sent on Breinburg to try to put some more emphasis on attack. We couldn’t get anything happening. 3rd place was vanishing.
Then came Appiah and Santos to the rescue. Santos ran a long way and crossed right at the byline to find the foot of Appiah who had run in from outside the box. It was good. Not good enough, but we got a point.
Van Eijden is out for five weeks. Sleegers too.
There are three teams on 54 points, one on 53, and one on 51. We’ve got the second worst goal difference of the lot. They don’t pay me enough for this.
TUESDAY April 19th, 2016
Midweek games! Who thought this was a good idea? I’m not a fan, but we’re playing tomorrow and Vitesse just lost today! They played against my mentee, Philip Cocu’s, PSV. I am so proud that he’s continuing to play out the games.
WEDNESDAY April 20th, 2016
Game day. A nervy morning, let me tell you. So many things could go wrong. We headed off to Zwolle and I had some tough decisions regarding fitness levels after the shortened gap between games. Ended up starting Roman over Appiah up front and had to give Christian Santos a break.
We started the game in our traditional way, keeping possession fairly well, but not troubling the goalkeeper. We got a break 22 minutes in when Woudenburg sent a speculative looping through ball forward. Ritzmaier ran for it alongside the Aussie, Trent Sainsbury, and a controversial shoulder bump knocked Sainsbury off the chase. Marcel ran onto the ball, into the box, and finished with great control. A goal for us!
We kept Zwolle honest for the rest of the half, picking up a four yellow cards. Keeping them honest, or keeping them bruised. They made some early subs in the second half to try to change the way the game was going. I was really happy with my guys. They were keeping opposition shots down and picked up another couple of yellow cards. No question that we’re going to come out on top of that table at the end of the season. Not sure what’s going on there – are we dirty or not very good at tackling?
We finished our game still one goal ahead and went straight to the pub to watch the late games for Ajax and Twente. We got to the Shamrock in time to see the last twenty minutes. In the 75th minute, Ajax were down 3-1 and Twente were down 2-0. Christmas in April? They both scored while we were watching, but it wasn’t enough, with both losing by a goal. This is absolutely insane!
De Graafshap have been relegated, but that has been obvious for some time.
THURSDAY April 28th, 2016
I’ve spent the long gap between games looking into players for next season. Hopefully I’ll have some money to spend because I have six loan players to replace. Naturally, we’ll look for a few loans again, but my preference is to have most players on our books, rather than developing them for someone else. We’re in talks with a Senegalese Spanish striker to partner Mihai. He’s a free transfer from Espanyol, but he’s asking for a big wage. Time will tell.
So, two games to go. We’re currently three points ahead of Ajax and Vitesse, but they’re both ahead of us in-goal difference. Twente are four points back and also ahead of us in the goal difference. Twente’s schedule sees them play Ajax and then Vitesse to finish the season. We’re playing two bottom half teams. My moment of destiny is here.
FRIDAY April 29th, 2016
I’ve just been informed that finishing second would actually put us in the Champions League qualifying rounds rather than the Europa League. My tension level just went to 11.